This thesis analyzes the impact of the political decision to broaden the scope of the Government of Canada's 3-year National Homelessness Initiative (Human Resource Development Canada, NHI, 2002) from an urban focus to one that includes smaller communities. This change provided the opportunity to study the phenomenon of homelessness and how rural responses are formed. This author postulates that this focus of attention on an almost invisible phenomenon--rural homelessness--and the accompanying community planning processes funded by the Supportive Community Partnership Initiative (SCPI) will impact local social policy development. A multi-dimensional analytical approach was adopted and considered three components: first, a policy review, a broad look at the policy agenda framework in Canada; then, a case study to illustrate implementation issues related to the National Homelessness Initiative; and, finally, a reflection on current practice in order to realize a holistic critique of public policy.
The influence of socio-economic, political, and cultural factors on local planning and capacity building will be highlighted. Various models of governance were adopted across the country and guided the collaborative processes. This thesis presents an in-depth look at the community action plans and activities of the Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness (SCATEH) in both the rural and urban settings of Simcoe County. The processes adopted, capacity building components identified, and outcomes over the 7 years covered by the SCPI agreement are examined. The limitations of using participatory local action planning to respond to complex issues such as homelessness are detailed along with a modified community-based policy development model recommended as a learning tool to be used by those volunteers acting as agents of change.
It is widely recognized that safe, affordable social housing is a fundamental need, and one that is extremely difficult to meet. The contribution this research makes is to reveal how effective government-community partnerships can be in a rural setting.